Stephen Byrne, Co Wicklow
DEAR SIR: I have been thinking about safety for the last two weeks or so as I awaited my inspection from the Health and Safety Authority. I got two weeks’ notice as I wasn’t around on the first date they called.
I have been busy fixing what was on my Farm Safety Statement, some of the jobs had a 2013 completion date – nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. From the years I spent working on building sites, I know that the HSA can use the stick instead of the carrot.
The inspection was a very pleasant experience and very informative, each point of failure could be discussed and a clear explanation given. There was no attitude of: ‘It is what it is, so get it done, now’, but instead one of understanding. Ultimately, everything on the list needs to be done.
Our circumstances have changed in the last few months with my wife leaving full-time work and taking up a more active role on the farm. With the extra person, I find myself leaving the tricky jobs for when there is an extra pair of hands, eyes and ears around, whichever is needed.
The macho approach of my wanting to do everything myself is slowly giving into the idea that two is better than one (especially when feeding a hundred sheep in a wet, ploughed field).
This got me thinking about farmers who have no one to turn to and the risks that they might have to take as a result.
With the Government flying the flag for JobBridge, could a person who was of a certain age and status seek help through the Job Bridge Internship Scheme?
If a farmer knew that a person was coming in for a few days a week he could arrange a safer plan of work. It would be assistance, company and an extra pair of legs to get help should the worst happen – at the very least it would be a body to stand in a gate.
Agriculture is hard to get into if you are not born into it and this could provide an opportunity for those people who wouldn’t normally get the chance.
Also, it would promote the formation of friendships and help to tackle rural isolation problems.
If janitorial and administration roles are deemed to be work experience, then surely experience as a farm help could be as fulfilling.
PS Having my wife more on the farm has been great and brings a bit of a different angle to it. There is now tea and coffee and as many cleaning products in the lambing shed as at home, which is not a bad thing.